Archive for December, 2008

Gentleman Jim at Christmas

December 25, 2008

My daughter asked me for a copy of the eulogy I wrote for my father-in-law. Since it’s been a couple of years from when I wrote it I reread it and it stills sounds like Jim. So if anyone was wondering about James Dolan – Seamus – Gentleman Jim – Here is what I read at the church:

Gentleman Jim

I’ve been trying to think what I would say at a time like this….
(What do you say?)
“Sorry for your loss?”
“He was a good man?”
“His suffering is over?”
This seems somehow hollow.

At every family gathering there is the telling of stories and funerals are not different. There are many stories to share with each other. I want to take a moment to relate one. When Pam and I were first dating she introduced me to Jim and Virginia over dinner at a now defunct restaurant in Holden. The subject of bussing came up and I immediately sided with Judge Garrity and his attempt to correct the social ills of Roxbury. Lefty Youth bumps into the Parental Right.

The first of our many dinner table “discussions” began that night. I don’t think I made a very favorable first impression, but true to Jim’s gentle nature he let me break bread with him again and again each time we would follow dessert with a discussion that would be right at home on any radio talk show. It did not matter the subject – we would just hash it out until the arguments could not be supported.

These “discussions” could go on for some time and would drive his wife, Virginia, crazy – Discord in the dinning room!!! – But they kept me honest in my thinking. Jim would poke holes in my reasoning or present an alternative I had not considered. Very gently he would make his points over a “green monster.”

He had the patience of a man who lived with four ladies in a home that had one bathroom. That’s an accomplishment. And that is what you should consider at a time like this. Accomplishments. To take the full measure of a man’s life look at what he has done, not what he said or thought; review his accomplishments. Here are a few that belong to James Dolan:

-An award winning work ethic that began in grade school with a perfect attendance certificate and earning sick time equal to some significant portion of the national debt while working for the Post Office.

-Experienced Paint and Wallpaper man who lent his talents freely to his wife, children and their spouses. Ditto for his other hats as gardener and landscaper. All of our homes have something Jim helped us take care of or something that we know how to do because of his expertise.

-Muscles the Marine, a World War II vet, who was wounded in the shadow of Mount Suribachi carrying a radio across the beachhead during the invasion of Iwo Jima after the first radioman was killed.

-An avid tennis player who shared his love of the game with his children and grandchildren…

And that brings me to the accomplishment that I’m sure was Jim’s proudest:

-His children and grandchildren – his family.

Born on Valentine’s Day, he was raised by his extended family here in Worcester because of the loss of his mother in his own birth. That makes one appreciate the importance of family. Jim was able to witness all of his children become successful in their chosen profession. He attended their weddings. He saw them all start their own families. He met all of his grandkids. He would perk up with a visit from any of his kids and doubly so with a visit from his grandkids. For a man one would never call prideful; he was most proud of all of you – his progeny.

And that is how we achieve immortality. The Church speaks to us of an afterlife and has a place for us to go after we die. I’m not sure this is right, but there is a very tangible afterlife for James Dolan that I am sure of: it’s all of you and the memories that we all have of him. I know every time I hear the phrase “bold stump” I hear Jim’s voice. Check out my wife’s profile – you will see her dad’s likeness. Then look at my son – you’ll see Jim. Two generations already – There is no denying that Dolan nose.

That is how we live on, how we have an afterlife for sure. We pass on our genes, as do all living things, but Jim was able to pass on his wisdom, create memories and, most of all, share his love with his children and grandchildren. This is not a small thing – especially for a guy born on Valentine’s Day. That’s the accomplishment of a lifetime.

Thank you Seamus!

gjim

A New (car) Deal

December 23, 2008

auto3OK we gave $13 billion to the big three (they don’t deserve capitals). Will it help? I don’t think so – I see bankruptcy as the only way to go in the long run. The amount of money the British government put into all of the Brit cars through the 60s and 70s did not save them. The production lines were never updated and most never sold outside the UK because of tariffs on imports meant they did not have to compete.

Some want to blame the UAW for making the workers too expensive. Some want to blame management for lack of actually managing. But I am of mixed feelings of heaping this solely on the workers or the management, both are at fault because both lost the idea that what they are producing is a car – not a job or a lifestyle – those are byproducts of producing a product somebody wants.

My dad was a Ford guy. Mr Kimball next door was a Chevy guy. Back the there was a brand identity and a vision. Today there is no clear vision from anyone about what the company they head (or the one they work for) is all about. I hate “vision statements” and all that crap, but they have a place if well done and this idea from Management 101 is needed in Detroit. What is the vision of GM? of Chrysler? of Ford?

When I think of other makers I have an idea of what they are about:
Subaru=all wheel drive
Toyota= quality
Honda= guality and maybe sportier than Toyota
Hyundai= Good bang for the buck
BMW = custom and sporty
Mercedes=luxury

American cars used to be “the Cadillac,”  but that’s now Mercedes or BMW or Lexus. The US once led in technological innovation and now that is replaced with “me too” marketing. A badly written law that says they must reduce gas consumption (CAFE standards) has these companies building vehicles that skirt the law’s intent by basing their products on trucks giving us the very needed 7 or 8 passenger SUV.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. We must learn to compete not only by reducing labor and management costs, but by actually innovating again. With rare exception I haven’t lusted for an American car in years. I think the last was the Ford GT, completely unattainable by me just like Angelina Jolie. It did make me look at the rest of what Ford made though. American car makers must make some statement defining what they are all about and develop a means of production that makes us competitive.

The world market could force autoworkers to lower their wage expectations, however the possibility of the Pinkertons returning to keep workers in line is frightening. Management must also become lean, but not mean. The question is should the government replace (or has it already?) the need for unions by protecting workers from cost cutting aimed only at them. Protecting wages if management takes a bonus, maintaining safety on the job and to watch-dog labor practices that compromise gains made by women, children and other groups that have been exploited in the past would be a role for government if the call for bankruptcy means breaking the unions.

It is a tricky question, but I am more hopeful that something may get done in the next 4 years to get us on the right road than I have been these last 8.